Everyone always talks about government and what they want out of it, but nobody seems to truly grasp what government IS. Do we honestly know? I think I’ve got a pretty good idea and hopefully I can walk you through it.
Let’s start with what government is NOT. We know that government isn’t a set of fancy buildings all placed in a certain location – say, Washington D.C. Why can’t that be? If this were the case, anybody could put up an old Roman looking building in D.C. and call it the government, yet the vast majority of us wouldn’t consider it to be so. What about the names we give to government? If we get a group of people together and call them Congress and give them a President, do they suddenly become a legitimate authority? I don’t think so. And what about the things they do? If I start creating laws, do you suddenly follow them? Not so much. So what if we combine these things together? If I get some friends together, say 535, separate them into 2 halves of a fancy building in Washington D.C. and call it Capitol Hill – 100 will be in what we call the Senate, and the other 435 the House of Representatives; then we can have a Supreme Court with 8 justices and one chief justice in another fancy building; and I can sit in a White House and call myself President with one of my friends being the Vice President and a whole bunch of my other friends can be my advisers – we’ll call them the cabinet. We’ll separate our powers and duties amongst each other and start making laws, would you follow them? I certainly wouldn’t. What if you were allowed to elect us? Would you still follow the laws? Why would you follow laws of some random people, simply because they made themselves look fancy and told you that you could choose your law makers? I’d rather remain free.
So if none of these can be the logical explanation for government, what can? Well, let’s take a look at a counter-example of something that is clearly not government yet has all of these previously stated government hallmarks – a corporation. A corporation is made up of many people. It makes rules (laws) of how to run the company and of how to protect its assets. It has a headquarters in a big fancy building with different leaders and boards and committees who make these rules. It even has it’s own security team to force these rules, yet you would never let them go beyond the bounds of its own property to enforce its rules upon you! Therefore, the only difference between government and any other institution is your consent to allow it to enforce its rules upon you, and the consent that it has a legal monopoly on the initiation of force.
Let me say that again. The government is only legitimate because you believe it is. Within this belief, for some reason, you believe that the government is allowed to go beyond the normal bounds of any other institution, and initiate force upon you or others. We tend to call this police (law enforcement), or war. When the people stop believing the government is legitimate and no longer follow the rules, society calls that rebellion and you believe the government is just in forcing them to comply with their rules which we tend to call martial law.
Now of course, simply not consenting isn’t going to make the government go away. They’ve got lots of power and money and large armed forces to enforce their laws all because people in the past decided that they would consent to this force. However, if enough of these armed forces realized this fact and no longer consented to government, it wouldn’t have any power over us. Although, the most important thing to come from this knowledge is this – a new world is possible and we must understand all the wrongs of the old, the absence of government will be extremely important in this new, peaceful society.